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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
If your dog suffers from bad breath, chances are you (and everyone else) already knows. There’s nothing worse than going in for a kiss and being confronted with that tell-tale odor. The good news? There are some tried and true tricks to get your dog’s breath, dental hygiene, and overall health in a much better place. If you’re wondering how to fix bad dog breath, the first clue is determining the cause. We’ll cover some of the most common reasons along with ideas for treatment and prevention.
Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs
Bad breath in dogs is usually caused by either underlying health or dental issues or bad eating habits (like litter-box snacking). Here’s how to determine the culprit:
- Inspect your dog’s mouth. If your pup has broken or cracked teeth, tartar buildup, or red or sore gums, it’s likely poor dental health is contributing to your dog’s bad breath.
- Inspect your dog’s face. If your dog has long hair, it’s possible that part of the cause is “beard funk,” or buildup in the hair around their mouth.
- Schedule a wellness visit. It’s worth a quick visit to the vet to rule out a serious underlying health problem. Bronchial issues, or infections in the throat and lungs, can lead to bad breath. Ailments like diabetes, kidney, and liver issues can also cause your dog’s breath to take on a sweet, ammonia, or musty odor.
- Bad breath can be temporary. Sometimes bad breath is a temporary condition because of something your dog ate or got into, like the trash or the litter box. In these cases, there are lots of ways to help freshen their breath while you implement management—buying an extra bungee cord for the trash can or moving the litter box to the basement. (Need help? Try a dog-proof trash can or a FlexLatch for the litter-box room.)
How To Fix Bad Dog Breath
Good prevention begins with good dental care. Some dogs need more proactive care than others, but chances are all dogs will suffer from bad breath (at least temporarily) at some point in their lives. For short-term fixes, options such as regular brushing, chews, and crunchy snacks may help to keep your dog’s breath healthy. We recommend the following tips and tricks to fix bad breath in dogs:
- Professionally clean your dog’s teeth annually or per your vet’s recommendation.
- Regularly brush at home with a toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste.
- Get dental chew treats from your vet, dentist, or local pet store.
- Give your dog textured chew toys to keep tartar at bay and exercise the gums.
- Crunchy snacks like raw sweet potato, carrots, and apples (no seeds) can also keep teeth squeaky clean.
- Change water frequently and scrub dog bowls, especially for heavy droolers. If your dog specializes in backwash, consider a dog water fountain with a filter to make your life easier.
Bad Breath Tip #1: Regular Brushing
The vast majority of dogs can learn to tolerate toothbrushing, but it might take some practice. Dogs naturally explore life through their taste buds, so their first instinct when the toothbrush hits their gums is to try to taste it. It can be tricky to bypass a curious tongue to reach the teeth, but patience and consistency will help—plus good equipment.
1. Arm & Hammer Toothbrush and Toothpaste for Dogs
There are lots of dog toothbrush and toothpaste brands to pick from, but Arm & Hammer is one of the most popular for limiting tartar buildup and soothing inflamed gums—things that go hand in hand with bad dog breath. We’ve found not all pups are wild about the chicken and mint flavors, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the goal is to bypass your pup’s curious tongue and make it to their teeth instead.
Note: It might be tempting to opt for a simpler finger brush instead of the full treatment with bristles, but veterinarians say a traditional toothbrush—albeit one sized and angled for dogs—is ultimately better for dental health.
- Helps prevent gum disease with regular use
- Made with natural ingredients, including mint
- Dual-ended toothbrush with different sizes for hard-to-reach spots
2. Jasper Dog Toothbrush
Though some vets recommend you eventually level up to a traditional bristle brush, a finger brush is a good starting point for pups new to the activity. The Jasper brush fits over your finger, which makes it a little less intimidating than a bristly stick, and the 360-degree rubbery nubs are gentle on sensitive gums and teeth.
We’ve found it a much easier sell than a standard toothbrush and a solid first step to a regular brushing routine.
- Made with BPA and phalate-free silicone
- Can be used with or without toothpaste
- May not be effective for very small or toy breeds
Bad Breath Trick #2: Dental Chew Treats
Dental chew treats are another tool that can help fight bad dog breath—and they’re an easy one to implement, since most dogs find them much more enjoyable than a toothbrushing session. Good dental chews are soft enough for sensitive teeth but sturdy and textured enough to help remove plaque and tartar as your dog chews. They should take a few minutes for the dog to completely chew (the longer time on target, the more effective they can be). Below are some of our favorites.
1. Minties Dental Treats
Minties Dental Treats help keep your dog’s teeth free from tartar and plaque while freshening their breath. They come in different sizes for different breeds, and one gluten-free treat per day is enough to get your dog on the road to better dental hygiene. Each Mintie has five fresheners to help keep breath smelling good: peppermint, alfalfa, parsley, fennel, and dill.
- Rough texture helps to keep your dog’s teeth free of tartar and plaque
- Gluten-, wheat-, and corn-free with no added sugar or salt
- One treat per day helps to promote good dental hygiene
2. OraVet Dental Hygiene Chews
OraVet Dental Hygiene chews are available in many sizes for different-sized mouths and chompers. These vet-recommended chews are designed to loosen and dislodge plaque as your dog chews. They also contain an ingredient to protect against bacteria. One per day is all that’s recommended to improve dental hygiene.
- Contains delmopinol to form a barrier and protect against bacteria
- Suitable for dogs 6 months and older
- May stain carpets and fabrics: feed on floors that can be easily cleaned
3. Pedigree Dentastix
Pedigree Dentastix chews have a unique X-shape and ridges that help remove tartar and plaque buildup, right down to the gumline. Free of sugar and fillers, these dental sticks have a cool minty taste. They also come in various sizes to suit your specific pup.
It’s worth noting that dental chews do add to your pup’s daily calorie count, so if you’re feeding them regularly, keep an eye on your dog’s diet and consider cutting extra treats elsewhere to make room.
- One treat per day helps maintain good dental health
- Also available in different flavors
- Available in many sizes for different dog breeds
Bad Breath Tip #3: Textured Chew Toys
Textured chew toys are an easy way to promote good dental health, particularly if you have a pup who loves to gnaw. The rubbery nubs of these toys help to maintain good gum health, keep tartar and plaque from building up, and are flavored with a fresh scent to help fix bad dog breath. A pro tip from some of our favorite trainers: Try putting dog toothpaste on the textured parts and let your dog go to town—it’s a great way to clean the hard-to-reach spots.
Note that all dog chews involve some level of risk. If you’re new to chews, read up on the dangers and learn what you can do to minimize the potential hazards—plus decide what’s right for your pup. If in doubt, give your vet a call.
1. Bullibone Brusher
The Bullibone Brusher is an intense chew to keep your dog busy while cleaning their teeth. Made for power-chewers, it’s designed with a flat base that helps your dog hold it upright as they gnaw. It’s also infused with peppermint flavor and baking soda to help freshen breath and break up plaque.
- Helps to maintain healthy gums and remove tartar and plaque
- Long-lasting and durable
- Good for adult dogs and puppies with adult teeth
- May be too big for toy or small dog breeds
2. Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Dog Chew
Virbac oral hygiene chews are vet recommended for cleaner and healthier teeth. These single-layer, all-beef rawhides feature a dual enzyme system and an abrasive texture to help reduce tartar and plaque and to promote fresh breath and good dental hygiene. Note that some dogs with sensitive stomachs have trouble digesting rawhide. If that’s your pup, consider a similar rawhide alternative.
- One chew a day to help with dental health
- All-beef rawhide with a poultry flavor
- Comes in multiple sizes, including for smaller dogs
Bad Breath Tip #4: Crunchy Snacks
If your dog loves crunchy treats, give them a variety of fruits and vegetables to help scrape food off their teeth naturally. An added bonus? Fruits and veggies also contain antioxidants that can help dogs deal with chronic oxidative stress. If your pup isn’t into the veg life, you can also buy crunchy packaged treats to help fix their bad dog breath. Just make sure you’re choosing treats that are free of sugar and fats.
1. Pawstruck Natural Dental Treats for Dogs
Pawstruck Natural Dental Chews are made from high-quality, all-natural ingredients that have been globally sourced. The blend of herbs helps freshen breath and includes parsley and cumin. Offering an enticing shape for your pup, the hard toothbrush design has grooves to help break up plaque and remove tartar.
- Also intended to promote digestion
- Free of corn and wheat
- No artificial preservatives, ingredients, or chemicals
2. Dingo Dental Sticks
Dingo Dental Sticks are a crunchy take on the traditional chews, designed to add freshness with baking soda and parsley seed. Made with real chicken, these treats are an added source of protein to keep your dog engaged and chewing.
- Good for small, medium, and large dogs
- Made with real chicken in the middle
- Uses chewing action to help promote gum health
Which Dogs Need Dental Care the Most?
Some breeds are more prone to poor dental health than others. Similarly, dogs in their later years can be more susceptible to bad breath caused by dental decline. If your dog also has a habit of chewing non-chewable things (think fences, kennels, and the like), it could cause damage in the long run and lead to poor dental health. Keep a watchful eye on your dog’s teeth if you have:
- Smaller dog breeds and flat-faced dogs like Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Boxers who are more likely to suffer from dental disease, due to a smaller and more crowded mouth
- Dogs with a genetic history of bad teeth who are more likely to exhibit poor dental health
- Older dogs with little to no previous cleaning regimen who can succumb to long-term cases of bad breath seemingly out of the blue
- Puppies who need to be trained early for home brushing so that it becomes an easy habit
Home Remedies To Fix Bad Dog Breath
If you’re looking for homemade options or a quick fix (we still recommend getting your vet’s advice for any dental or physical health concerns), here are a few at-home remedies that provide some temporary relief:
- Dog “mouthwash” aka breath-freshening drinking water additives
- Fresh mint or parsley sprinkled on food or added to your favorite dog cookie recipe
- Charcoal-laced dog cookies, which claim to clean up halitosis and flatulence—a two-fer!
How We Chose
We selected products based on a combination of our own hands-on testing and a comprehensive look at customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms. We prioritized products that offer a variety of solutions for bad dog breath and contain high-quality ingredients. Most importantly, we’re guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated pets, who are never stingy with their feedback.